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Honorary Doctorate

Dame Kiri Te KANAWA

2010 Honorary Doctorate

Dame Kiri Te KANAWA


Dame Kiri Te Kanawa made her sensational debut as the Contessa in Le Nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1971, moving rapidly into the front rank of international opera stars to become one of the most famous sopranos in the world.  At the time of her operatic debut she was already an experienced concert and recording artist, and was as equally at home in front of the cameras as on stage.

Kiri Te Kanawa was born in New Zealand, and carries the exotic blood of native Maori aristocracy.  By the time she was twenty she had won the major vocal prizes available in the South Pacific, and had also started her recording career - unusual for a prima donna in any era.  After moving to London and studying at the London Opera Centre, she was engaged to sing a Flower Maiden at Covent Garden.  Colin Davis’ attention was caught, and the young Kiri Te Kanawa was marked for Mozart’s Countess, after first appearing as Carmen in Britain and New Zealand.

Kiri Te Kanawa is a familiar figure in the leading opera houses of the world - Covent Garden, the Metropolitan, the Chicago Lyric Opera, Paris Opera, Sydney Opera House, the Vienna State, La Scala, San Francisco, Munich and Cologne.  Her lyric soprano heroines include the three major leading roles by Richard Strauss (Arabella, the Marschallin, and the Countess in Capriccio); Mozart’s Fiordiligi, Donna Elvira, Pamina and the Countess in Figaro; Verdi’s Violetta, Amelia Boccanegra, and Desdemona; Puccini’s Tosca, Mimi and Manon Lescaut; Johann Strauss’ Rosalinde; Tchaikovsky’s Tatiana; Bizet’s Micaela and Carmen, and Gounod’s Marguerite.

With her natural serenity and vocal beauty she has often collaborated with the world’s major symphony orchestras and conductors in the great halls around the world.

Dame Kiri has released a number of distinguished recordings including Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro, Cosí fan Tutte, Die Zauberflöte, Tosca, La Rondine, La Bohème, Manon Lescaut, Simon Boccanegra, Otello, La Traviata, Der Rosenkavalier, Arabella, Capriccio, Faust, Eugene Onegin, Carmen, and discs of arias from French, Italian and German operas.  Outside the operatic field, her recordings are equally extensive and include Mozart concert arias; the Strauss Four Last Songs; Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne (top of the best-seller charts in Britain); Berlioz’s Nuits d’été; Brahms’ German Requiem; Handel’s Messiah, and Beethoven’s 9th and Mahler’s 4th Symphonies.

With her versatility and poise, she joined Nelson Riddle for Blue Skies, an album of American popular songs; followed by albums of Gershwin, Porter and Kern songs and three classics of the light music stage: My Fair Lady, South Pacific, and Leonard Bernstein’s only recording of West Side Story.  Dame Kiri released the album Maori Songs in 2000, a tribute to her background and homeland.

Created a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1982, Kiri Te Kanawa has honorary degrees from the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Dundee, Durham, Nottingham, Sunderland, Warwick, Auckland, Waikato and Chicago.  She is an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music, an honorary fellow of Somerville College, Oxford, and of Wolfson College, Cambridge, and in 1990 was invested with the Order of Australia.  In the 1995 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, she was awarded the Order of New Zealand.

Since February 2004, when she launched the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, a charity which aims to support and give financial aid to New Zealand musicians, Dame Kiri has been giving concerts to raise funds for this Foundation.  She is the Founding Artistic Director of the Solti Te Kanawa Accademia di Bel Canto, a summer course based in Italy for training the next generation of opera singers.  In October 2009 Dame Kiri came to the HongKong Academy for Performing Arts to give a series of public masterclasses with singers from the Solti Te Kanawa Accademia and students from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.  Following the masterclasses in Hong Kong, she arranged for one of the Hong Kong Academy’s singers to participate in the 2010 Solti Te Kanawa Accademia di Bel Canto in Italy.